/A mean-spirited ministry

A mean-spirited ministry

From Shaman’s Rock

By Jim Poling Sr.

I’m in deep doo-doo with the Ontario government bureaucracy.

I awoke today to a Ministry of Natural Resources email telling me I am being fined for not reporting that I didn’t hunt last year. The fine of $25 will be added to my licensing fees when I apply for a 2024 licence.

Reporting is mandatory for anyone who buys a licence to hunt turkey, moose, deer, elk, wolf or bear. Hunters must report online, or by telephone, whether they hunted, what they harvested, where, what animals they spotted and how many days they spent hunting.

I didn’t know all this, or more accurately, perhaps I did and forgot. I do have a vague recollection that I did try to report online but was told to try another time. A friend has tried four times to report but each time has been told to try again.

At any rate, it’s my bad. If I fail to report a second time, I won’t be allowed to apply for a licence again.

The ministry says that mandatory reporting helps it to set management policies for monitoring wildlife populations, seasons and bag limits. That is important but fining hunters who don’t report on time is way over the top.

Instead of sending a nasty you-are-being-fined email, why not a friendly reminder email encouraging co-operation to improve wildlife management and sport hunting? Each takes the same amount of time and energy.

As my mother used to say: “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

I suspect the ministry’s get-tough approach results from frustration. Apparently 10 per cent of Ontario’s 600,000 licensed hunters are not reporting. That’s tens of thousands of hunters forgetting or ignoring mandatory reporting.

That’s enraging the ministry bureaucrats who want 100 per cent reporting. Because they are not getting it, they are turning to Vladimir Putin techniques.

There are indications that the ministry is considering more Putin-like tricks to get all hunters to co-operate. It is reviewing the “penalty framework” to see if there are other ways to force hunters to report.

One assumes that means bigger financial penalties, or (good grief!) perhaps even jail time.

Instead of showing visionary leadership to get hunters working with it as partners, the ministry has opted for a mean-spirited approach that treats non-reporting hunters as criminals.

The problem here is that we elect politicians who let bureaucrats run the government. Left on their own, bureaucrats run lousy governments. They sit in cozy city offices and make decisions based on their thinking and not the thinking of people who live in the real world.

The only hunters the bureaucrats in Toronto get close to are the street gangs outside their offices. The downtown drug wars are the only wildlife they get to see.

The ministry needs to push its bureaucrats off their butts, away from their computers and out among hunters.

What better way to do that than to reverse its disastrous Frost Centre decisions. Buy the place back and move its bureaucrats into the once well-equipped buildings that have sat mainly empty and unused since 2004.

The Frost Centre, in the centre of the Haliburton County bushlands, was for more than 80 years the office of many ministry employees dedicated to Nature and wildlife. That’s the way it should be again.

Making it that way again would put ministry bureaucrats close to the hunters. They would have opportunities to see hunters and talk to them.

Looking out the Frost Centre office windows they might even see some wildlife, like a deer or a wild turkey, instead of a stoned human or discarded drug paraphernalia.

The $25 failure-to-report penalty can be appealed on medical grounds, but the chances of winning an appeal are razor thin. You pretty much have to prove you couldn’t report because you were close to death. Heart attack, stroke, hospitalization count but illnesses like influenza and COVID do not.

Also, the ministry says you must get a doctor to fill out forms saying what was wrong with you.

For my part, I don’t plan to appeal or to pay the $25 failure-to-report fine because, despite having bought a hunting licence every year for the last 60-plus years, I don’t intend to buy another.